U-Turn Orbit Special turntable review: revamped and out of t…

U-Turn Orbit Special turntable playing a record.

U-Turn Orbit Special (Gen 2)

MSRP $549.00

“The upgrades to the second generation U-Turn Orbit Special make it the perfect midrange turntable.”


  • excellent sound

  • Dynamic Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge

  • new speed selection dial

  • solid acrylic plate

  • Optional built-in preamp

  • seven closing

I’ve always been impressed by U-Turn Audio’s lineup of affordable Orbit turntables, which it began producing in 2012. Over the next decade, the Orbit earned a reputation as a no-nonsense record player that looks good, is easy to operate, and is built with good components—you can even mix and match them to suit your needs and budget. Can, which has made the line attractive to a wide range of vinyl enthusiasts, including me.

So, when U-Turn launched its second-generation Orbit lineup last fall — the first major upgrade in the company’s history — I was excited to get my hands on it. That time has come. The entire Orbit range, including the Orbit Basic, Plus and Special, has been redesigned. The U-Turn has equipped me with both ends of the range, the Basic and the Special, but this review will focus on the latter.

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Taking some cues from its premium-range Orbit Theory turntable, which U-Turn successfully launched in late 2022, the upgrades to the 2nd-gen Orbit Special make it a perfect midrange turntable that is a pleasure to use. The thing is. With a redesigned tonearm, upgraded motor and spindle, new grooved acrylic platter, some exciting new finish options and (gasp!) an electronic speed control dial, the first-generation Orbit Special (one of my daily drivers) Also every problem I faced since 2018) has been erased. Ranging from $549 to $749 depending on how you configure it, the Orbit Special remains a great value. The reimagined Orbit Special takes an excellent turntable and makes it even better. This way.

U-Turn Orbit Special turntable with yellow records on platter.
Derek Malcolm/

U-Turn Orbit Special: Setup

Like many modern turntables worth purchasing, the U-Turn Orbit Special comes well packaged and protected, with only a few major parts that need to be assembled and installed. However, it’s all very simple, and it comes with all the instructions you need, whether you’re new to it or a professional.

In the box, you’ll find the main plinth with the tonearm already installed and its cartridge (the fantastic Ortofon 2M Red) already installed and pre-aligned. All you have to do is follow the instructions for mounting and balancing the turntable’s counterweight (it’s easy), place the acrylic plate on the spindle, and wrap the silicone-rubber belt around its newly machined groove and the motor. This all takes about 10 minutes and is a lot of fun.

The Orbit Special is a perfect midrange turntable that is a joy to use.

A power adapter and RCA cables are included, and depending on whether you’ve got the built-in phono preamp (more on that later) or not, you’ll just need one from your receiver/amplifier or a set of powered speakers. Must connect and you’re off. Oh, and it comes with a solid dust cover that installs on two plastic hinges on the back of the plinth. It also works well, and doesn’t come off due to its own weight, as I have tried.

U-Turn Orbit Special: Features and Operation

This is what I meant when I said no bullshit. My digital-savvy colleague, Simon Cohen, likes to pester us with the word “antique” when describing turntables and their associated polyvinyl media, but I think there’s a beauty in their simplicity. The U-Turn Orbit Special (or any member of the Orbit line, for that matter) isn’t big and heavy, with a plinth just three-quarters of an inch thick. It’s made of either MDF, solid walnut, or, like my review unit, of a beautiful and natural oak, not veneer.

All models come with U-Turn’s anti-resonant acrylic platter, which reduces the turntable’s weight by approximately 15 pounds. It fits well with most furnishings, and as long as you don’t choose one of the darker colors like green, red or blue, it won’t be an eyesore.

New AO3 tonearm assembly on the U-Turn Orbit Special.
New OA3 tonearm assembly on the U-Turn Orbit Special. Derek Malcolm/

Class two point oh!

With the upgrade to the range, the Orbit gets a new, single-piece molded magnesium tonearm that is a version of the OA3 Pro “Precision” tonearm that the company has put on its own. Over $1,000 Theory Turntable (minus the “Pro” designation). It’s sleeker and lighter than the aluminum version of the first-generation Orbit, and the single-piece design combining headshell, armtube and pivot housing translates to much less resonance and vibration transfer that would have been occurring between the assembly points of the old . Parts of the model. Also it is black and looks quite sleek.

The second-generation Orbit Special didn’t get Theory’s numbered counterweight dial or adjustable anti-skate (it’s internal on the Special), but if I’m honest, I never really found a use for it after setup. Works flawlessly. The first generation Orbit didn’t have this either, and even after changing cartridges several times, recalibrating the counterweight and tracking force is a little tricky, but still easy.

But my two favorite updates to the Orbit Special are the new grooved platter, which keeps the belt secure and in place, and the addition of the speed control dial that lets you easily switch between 45 and 33 1/3 rmp speed selections. Turn a knob on the front left of the plinth, replacing the old on/off switch.

Both are welcome features adopted from Theory, and the time is now ripe. All of U-Turn’s record players are belt driven, and manually changing the speed by physically moving the belt from one part of the motor to another is a pain – the belt falls off and has to be touched to put it back on. May fall. It also stretches and I have had to replace them over the years.

The speed dial works excellently, the new motor has more torque and gets the record much faster than before, and when I move my antistatic brush around, the pressure doesn’t stop the record . Too bad they didn’t put it on the entire Orbit line – the Basic and Plus models are out of luck.

to do or not to do

Orbit Special starts at $549 In five basic colors of black, white, red, blue, and green (add $170 for oak or walnut), and without a built-in phono preamp, which is fine if you already have a receiver or amplifier with a phono input. Or an external phono preamp (also called a phono stage) of your own. For $80 you can add U-Turn’s built-in phono stage, an indoor version of capable pluto 2 prologue If you get it yourself it costs $109. I will explain the performance of the preamp below.

U-Turn Orbit Special: Sound and Performance

Ortofon 2M Red cartridge on a U-Turn Orbit Special turntable.
ortofon 2m red Derek Malcolm/

Let me start by saying that the Orbit Special’s light weight and built-in preamp made it easy for me to move it around the house and connect it to a variety of audio setups, including an old Marantz 2230 with a nearly identical Mission 727. Is included. Speakers, a modern Cambridge CXA81 integrated amp with Wharfedale bookshelf speakers, and then straight to a set of great Edifier powered speakers.

Overall, the sound of the modified Orbit Special is gorgeous. It’s clear and deadly quiet when playing low-key, emotional tracks from acts like Boygenius and Elliott Smith; It ramps up easily with a wide and spacious soundstage when spinning mid-volume tracks by Miles Davis or the Peoria Jazzband; And then when I blasted a sweet 180g pressing The Strokes the room filled with sound. is this what The guys at Vinyl Me Please were nice enough to send it to me.

With this next generation Orbit Special, the U-turn has got another blow.

The Ortofon 2M Red does its job well, delivering smooth and controlled bass (it gives it something Thundercat likes), punchy and well-articulated mids (it ate the Breeders’ 30th Anniversary Edition). final splash), and Clear Heights (the horror of Portishead). enumerator Gave it a workout). Honestly, put next to the U-Turn Orbit Theory, they’re so close that I’d question that extra $300 if it weren’t for the additional detail and refinement of the latter. Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge, which you can upgrade to the Orbit Special for $159; You will just need the stylus as it is interchangeable. This is something to think about.

I also tested the Orbit Special by comparing the built-in preamp to a quality external shiit mani pre phono, as well as through the phono input of the Marantz receiver. I can report that I actually preferred the built-in over my beloved Marantz as it added a slight boost in level and added some warmth and clarity to the mids and highs. However, I found it to be pretty comparable to the Mani, so the extra $80 for the built-in is worth the money.

Switching to 33 and 45 RMP was a pleasant experience with the speed dial, and operationally, playing records on the Orbit Special is a lot of fun. The original Orbit Special was an excellent turntable, but with this next generation Orbit Special, the U-turn has taken another hit.

U-Turn Orbit Special turntable with a red vinyl record on it.
Derek Malcolm/

U-Turn Orbit Special: Bottom Line

I’ve spent a lot of hours with the Orbit Special, and all I can say is that U-Turn has done it again. The upgrade has increased its usability to almost the same level as its premium offering, Orbit Theory, and for hundreds of dollars less. Its low-noise operation can largely be attributed to the new OA3 and tonearm, quiet belt-driven motor and anti-resonant acrylic platter, while the Ortofon 2M Red handles all that expressive and detailed sound. And as I talked about above, the Ortofon cartridge that comes with it allows you to upgrade the stylus to Ortofon’s next-up Silver ($120) or Blue ($159) at the top of its range.

Major upgrades like the addition of electronic speed controls and grooved platter edges to keep the belt firmly in place have made the Orbit Special much easier and more fun to play records. U-Turn also has excellent customer service, which is of great help if anything goes wrong.

The Orbit Special’s versatility and starting price of $549 make it a good choice for beginners, but those who have been buying it for a while or have more money will also appreciate the extra finish and optional built-in preamp Which is above the price. $749, an investment that will last you for years.

Top-down image of the U-Turn Orbit Special turntable with yellow records.
Derek Malcolm/

If you’re still in the research phase, the Orbit Special’s closest competitors include the $600 Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO or balance $595 irrigation level 1, The Pro-Ject has a solid performing Sumico Rainier cartridge, while the Rega is a Rega and its carbon cartridge is top notch. But both lack internal preamp options and the Rega only comes in three finishes. However, both have amazing pedigree, and it’s good to see these big players making a U-turn.

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